Also today on the blog tour for My Travels with a Dead Man, I’m delighted to have author Steve Searls talking to us about whether Famous Authors Make Good Characters in a Novel? But first, here’s the info on his book….
book blurb & info
Jane Takako Wolfsheim learns she can alter time and space after meeting a charismatic stranger named Jorge Luis Borges.
Inextricably she falls for Borges. Soon, however Borges’ lies and emotional abuse, and nightmares about a demonic figure, “the man in black,” nearly drive Jane mad. After her parents are murdered, Jane flees with Borges. Both the ghost of haiku master, Basho, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue of Buddha that appears in her dreams, offer her cryptic advice. Unable to trust anyone, Jane must find the strength to save herself, her unborn child, and possibly the future of humanity.
Published by: Black Rose Writing on 27th August 2020
Formats available: Paperback & eBook. Available on Kindle Unlimited
Can Famous Authors Make Good Characters in a Novel? Why Yes, Yes They Can.
Novelists include famous historical figures in their books all the time. A quick search online will turn up thousands of fictional accounts of the lives of famous men and women throughout history. Examples include Lincoln (most recently in Lincoln in the Bardo) and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Churchill, Napoleon, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Catherine the Great, Boudicca (Ancient Britain’s Warrior Queen) and even poor Marie Antoinette (who, by the way likely never said the infamous quote attributed to her “Let them eat cake.”). The Confession of Nat Turner, in which Nat Turner, leader of a famous slave revolt in the antebellum South, relates his first person “confession,” to his lawyer, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for William Styron. Though typically depicted in historical fiction, famous people pop up in every genre imaginable, including tales of romance, fantasy, LGBT (Oscar Wilde, to name but one), time travel, alternate history and even murder mysteries.
But what about famous authors as characters? Well, it should come as no surprise that novelists haven’t excluded them. There are many fictional accounts where dead authors are the main characters. Shakespeare has been depicted any number of times in fiction, perhaps most famously in the award winning film Shakespeare in Love), but other famous authors are also well represented. Consider The Hours, in which Virginia Woolf is one of three protagonists in a novel that both mimics the structure of, and pays homage to, her masterpiece, Mrs. Dalloway. Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, Dante, the Bronte sisters, and plenty of other writers have appeared in almost every genre of fiction imaginable, whether as protagonists or minor characters. And many writers have included themselves as characters in their own novels, from Cervantes in Don Quixote to Kurt Vonnegut, who narrates the book that made him world famous, Slaughterhouse-Five. Even Stephen King couldn’t resist the urge to make a cameo appearance in his Dark Tower series.
In my debut novel, My Travels With a Dead Man, not one, but two famous authors appear as characters. One is Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinean writer acknowledged as one of the towering figures of 20th Century literature, and the other is the great 17th Century Japanese writer and haiku master, Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa, better known by his pen name, Bashō. Both play prominent roles is the narrative arc of my protagonist, Jane Takako Wolfshiem, a young bi-racial American woman of Jewish and Japanese descent. Borges is the mysterious stranger who saves Jane’s life and becomes her lover. Without giving away too many spoilers, one of the major storylines regards the mystery of Borges’ true identity. Is he the famous writer Borges (or related to him), or is he a con artist exploiting Jane’s latent paranormal abilities for his own selfish purposes?
Bashō, on the other hand, appears to Jane as a Yōkai, a supernatural being similar to a ghost. He appears throughout course of the story to offer advice and guidance to Jane, though often in a manner that she finds confusing, such as his repeated use of cryptic haiku poems, the meaning of which Jane struggles to understand. He also functions to convey Buddhist precepts and practices to Jane, as he attempts to help her shape her destiny, rather than allow others to shape it for her.
But why choose Borges and Bashō? Regarding Borges, I’ve been a big fan ever since I discovered his work in the early 90’s. The philosophical ideas, motifs and themes he embedded in his short stories struck a chord with me. Indeed, the idea of Borges as the love interest of a young woman was the premise for the story that became my novel. And because Borges often appeared as a character in his own stories, I didn’t think he’d mind being one in my book.
With Bashō, I added him as a character after reading his famous haibun (a mix of poetic prose and haiku) Oku no Hosomichi. He became a very important character with so much of the story set in Japan, and because I felt allowed me to bring in Buddhist themes without becoming didactic. In short, for those who have read either Borges or Bashō, they both add layers to the story, without detracting from the enjoyment of readers who’ve never heard of either one. And isn’t that what you want from characters in any story?
about the author
Organised by: Rachel’s Random Resources
Thanks to Rachel for inviting me on to the tour, and to Steve for his wonderful guest post.
Any questions, give us a shout!
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